Recycling update

Each individual generates about 4.5 pounds of solid waste per day of which 1.5 pounds is recycled.

The U.S. recycled 32 percent of its waste in 2005. Including composting, Americans recycled 79 million tons – a huge jump from 16 percent in 1990.

Paper is 40 percent of the waste stream though 50 percent of paper waste is recycled (34% in US mills).

# Newspapers: 82 percent
# Corrugated Boxes: 71 percent
# Office Paper: 56 percent
# Magazines: 33 percent

But e-waste — pollution from the disposal of unwanted electronic and electrical equipment — is fast becoming a problem. [story]

75 to 80 percent of older machines from the United States wind up in Asian countries such as India and China.

Most e-waste in India is dumped in landfills or incinerated, releasing toxins into the air and soil that can cause cancer, birth deformities and arrested brain development. Indian hospitals are treating patients who have 10 times the normal level of lead in their blood.

The number of electronic products discarded globally has skyrocketed in recent years — 50 million tons annually.

“High-tech companies do more than just sweep e-waste under the rug. They are sending it across the world in violation of international laws enacted to protect poor nations from the excesses of the world’s wealthiest,” said Ted Smith, founder of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. “Every new generation of technology … sends zillions more of our computers and TVs to global trash heaps.”

A growing number of prison inmates and guards are expressing fears for their health and safety in electronics recycling factories run by UNICOR, or the “Federal Prison Industries.” UNICOR is a controversial business venture: a government corporation operated under the Department of Justice that uses captive prison labor in a range of industries, including the manufacturing of furniture, textiles and dismantling e-waste.